Before You Launch Your Ecommerce Business – Things To Know

Recently I assisted a friend, an author who self-published her first book, set up her online presence. While she had her book listed at the usual vendors, she wanted to give readers the option of buying the book directly from her. This way, she could autograph the book on request and keep track of sales an interest. For a one-person operation with limited inventory to sell, the Ecommerce route doesn’t have to be very complicated. If you plan to launch a business through which you hope to sell products via the Internet, you need a plan that covers every aspect from production to customer satisfaction. Leave out on step, and you may encounter difficulties in getting your business off the ground.

It is arguably a common misconception that setting up an online store is the ticket to quick money. While it’s true that many businesses have achieved success in selling products via the Internet, a business is a business. When you are prepared with a financial plan, the means to produce and ship inventory, and quality customer service, you can watch profits soar. Ecommerce works similarly to the brick and mortar store – the only difference is that customers interact with you online.

Take into consideration these points as you devise your business plan.

1) Web support. Your online store begins with your website, and it’s crucial that the provider you choose offers 24-hour support and enough space to hold your data. You definitely do not want to build your store from a free service that forces you to display obligatory ads. The site structure and design must look professional, or else customers may become wary of shopping with you.

2) Shopping cart software. There are a number of options available to you here. You want to choose a program that is reliable and customizable. This program is responsible for tracking inventory and orders, collecting payment, and even collecting e-mail addresses so you can communicate sales to customers.

3) Fulfillment. If you know what you plan to sell, you need to figure out how products will be packaged and shipped to customers. Do you do everything yourself, or hire a third party to warehouse and ship your goods? As you grow, you may need to look into outsourcing fulfillment in order to keep up with demand.

4) Customer service. You may wish to look into an affordable program for providing toll-free numbers to customers. Also, be mindful of returns and similar issues and know what is required to keep customers happy.

These, of course, are just a few items to think about as you prepare your business. Make the plan before you launch, and that way you won’t be caught off-guard by problems.

4 Things That Real World Product Managers Do

What do product managers really spend their time doing? We like to talk about all of the things that tthey should be spending their time doing – boldly defining new products and clearly laying out markets to go after. However, the day-to-day reality of being a product manager can be quite different. The folks over at Pragmatic Marketing have just released their annual survey and it contains some interesting points…

Roadmaps

If ever there was a part of a product that a product manager should own, the roadmap is it. Just to make sure that we’re all on the same page here, a product roadmap lays out the changes and enhancements that are planned for your product in the future. You get to define the future: is it just this month, this year, or do you go out for 5 years?

Although we should own the product’s roadmap, this is not always an easy thing to do. Development teams have been known to want to play a big role in saying what shows up in the product and when it shows up.

The reason that this is the wrong way to handle things is that for your product to be successful, it really needs to be your customers who are defining in what order (and when) features are introduced. Who owns the roadmap can be the source of many battles within the firm.

Requirements

When people ask me what skills a product manager needs to have, at the top of my list is the ability to communicate clearly. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to product requirements.

You own the requirements for your products. Normally, the creation of product requirements is not something that people fight over. I mean, who really wants to do all of that writing?

The key skill that you need to have is the ability to both clearly and succinctly express what the product needs to be able to do. This has to be done for multiple simultaneous audiences: the sales teams need to be able to read it and understand what’s coming and the development teams need to be able to read it and understand what they need to do.

Market Problems

In a world without problems, there probably wouldn’t be much of a need for product managers. Thankfully there are a lot of problems out there! I’m not sure if “problems” is really the right word to use here, I think that “changes” might be closer to the mark…

When we create and launch a product, we do so in a market that has certain characteristics: we know who our customers are and we know who we are competing against. From that moment on everything changes.

As things change, it is your responsibility to change with it. We need to adapt our products, our marketing message, and perhaps even our pricing to deal with the new realities as they show up.

Positioning

What does your product do? Who does it do it for it? Why should your customers choose your product over somebody else’s? These are all great questions and if you don’t have a solid answer for each of them, things are not looking good for your product.

Knowing how you want people to view your product against all of their other options is a key point that product managers have to take care of. This higher level ability to “see” your product as the market does is very important.

Since we are dealing with an ever changing market, your product positioning will always be changing also. This means that as a product manager you need to always be “looking” at your product and making marketing adjustments to it.

What All Of This Means For You

It’s not easy being a product manager. There is no such thing as a product that just “runs on auto pilot”. Instead, every day we need to be making adjustments to both our products and how we market them in order to ensure that they will be successful.

A recent survey shows that product managers spend a lot of their time working on four main tasks. These tasks are: creating roadmaps, defining requirements, dealing with market “problems”, and ensuring that their products are properly positioned.

If we can master these activities, then we’ll have the core of what it means to be a great product manager taken care of. That being said, it’s not easy being a product manager; however, at least now you know what’s required!

How to Build an Effective Service Or Product Marketing Strategy – 5 Best Strategies

Developing an effective strategy to continuously improve your product or service needs to be number one on your business action plan. Why? Because without an effective, and evolving, product marketing strategy (or service delivery strategy), your business will struggle to succeed.

Strategy development can be intense and complex; and the cost of time, resources and money for the development of every element of your marketing strategy for brands can be high.

Most small business owners invest in up-front development of products or services strategies and, once they are launched, they do little to develop that strategy and do little to build it into their overall marketing and business strategy. In fact, the new product or service is often launched, and then expected to ‘take off’ on its own. When the launch fails or sales don’t hit targets, the blame for failure is often pointed to the sales or operations group, or the economy. I’ve even heard the customer being blamed for failing to buy the goods or services being offered.

Product Marketing Strategy: 5 Best Strategies (note: service delivery strategy is used interchangeably)

What many small businesses fail to do is to ensure that their product strategies are continuously enhanced and adapted for market conditions; as well as being adapted as the goods or services move through their product life cycle. A newly launched service (or good) needs marketing strategies that capitalize on the introduction, growth, maturity and declining stages of its life cycle. A positioning strategy that takes into account the product life cycle stage is effective and much more likely to succeed. In the introduction stage of a new product launch, you need to consider pricing, promotion, and distribution strategies. Are you entering a market with similar goods or services, or a new market entirely? For example, pricing strategies for goods with lots of competition might include a market penetration price strategy or a promotional price strategy. Whereas, a pricing strategy for entry into a highly technical field with few competitors could more successfully use a price skimming or market skimming strategy.
As much as pricing strategies need to be closely aligned to product and to product life cycle, consideration must also be given to differentiation strategies. Are features and benefits easily copied or imitated or bettered by competitors? If the answer is yes, you must be able to find another point of differentiation (for example, an outstanding and unmatched warranty program or same day/no charge shipping). Often the goods you launch are unique and differentiated at the beginning of their life cycle, but competitors catch up quickly and can often pass you in the race to win the buyers heart, mind and dollars. Differentiation strategies must be built to keep evolving and to make it difficult for competitors to copy you.
Is the promotional program you developed for your launch, appropriate for the ongoing evolution of the goods or services? For example, do you need more personal selling now? Or will direct marketing mail campaigns help you to establish brand recognition and build demand?
Do you need to re-look the distribution strategy for your goods or services? Is the distribution channel working effectively? Do you need additional merchants or retailers or affiliates? Review and analyze your sales history. Ensure that you have a clear understanding of where your product or service is selling, who is doing the selling, how it is being sold, what the sales lead time is, and all other distribution data. Find where the sales are growing and where they are not. Fix the problems. Test new distribution techniques. Monitor and measure your efforts and try to build a program that will help you not only with one product or service, but with many.
Consider diversification of your goods or services as a strategy for brand growth. Through diversification you can support and build your existing business while spreading the costs over other goods and services; some might be related, but other goods could be unrelated to the existing product line. The best diversification strategy ensures that you focus on brands that have limited competition, add minimal incremental cost to your operation, and that your customers want!
Your product marketing strategy must be continuously improving, and must have an effective brand management focus to move forward; ahead of your competition and ahead of your market. Building, growing and protecting your goods or services sales must be at the center of your strategy. Your purpose in building a strong brand marketing strategy is to grow your sales and to grow your share of the market. Focusing on your marketing mix strategy and strategic planning, and then acting on your plans, will move your business forward.